Let Them Eat Cat Food

 

Scrub-Jays Forego Blackberries

Wild blackberries among the roses.


Last year I wrote a blog about a Brazen Blue Jay that was flying into my kitchen and stealing Smoke’s cat food. I assumed she was taking the wet food thinking it would be more worm-like, but no, she was stealing the dry food. On closer observation I saw that she had two fledglings as big as she, but not yet ready to procure their own food and the mother was cleverly finding a short cut to feeding her boisterous little brood. So the juveniles were weaned (so to speak) on dry cat food.
 

It turns out she is actually a western scrub-jay, a long-tailed jay with a small bill and no crest. Official “blue jays” have a crest. According to National Geographic’s Complete Birds of North America, my scrub-jays are of the subspecies called the “interior woodhouseii group.” Unlike their coastal cousins which are “confiding, tame and easily seen” these woodhouseii of southeastern California are “more secretive and often are seen darting from bush to bush or are simply heard giving their harsh calls.”

This spring I attached a chicken feeder to the top of a cottonwood stump outside my kitchen window and put dry cat food in it to save the mom the trouble of ducking into my kitchen. Now I have six scrub-jays taking turns at the dry cat food I put out every morning. I assume that includes last year’s brood plus the two new chicks this year and the parents. Apparently I am growing my own flock of scrub jays. But the “secretive” and “darting” six rascals are virtually impossible to capture in one photo.

I was pleased to find that this year the jays stopped eating the wild blackberries that grow among my climbing roses. Every other day during blackberry season I have been able to pick off a handful of berries to eat on cereal or yogurt. A sweet tradeoff given the entertainment value of watching the six scrub jays vying for dry cat food outside my kitchen window.

Scrub-jay at feeder and on fence.

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